How Cancer Opened a Door for Me to Walk Through

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Karen Ingalls sharing her extraordinary journey from a nursing career in traditional and holistic medicine to a second act shaped by a life-altering diagnosis.

Here’s Karen!

kareningallspictureThank you, Joanne, for inviting me to be a part of your Second Act Series. When I received your invitation my mind immediately went to several second acts in my life, but I quickly knew that my most recent one was the one to share with your readers.

I remember as a young girl writing in tablets and diaries about magical places, current family events, and many dreams and goals. I wrote poems, pieces of prose, short stories, and even a novel when in my late teens. I never showed my writing nor told anyone about it. I wrote because it was a way to escape reality, create a happier world, or write about people (famous or not) who I admired or loved. I did not think of myself as a writer nor visualize myself someday having a published book or article. I wrote because I enjoyed it, it helped me, and through it I found a sense of peace.

Along with writing I have always loved to read. Here I was and still am influenced by my grandmother Edith, who was a librarian assistant and she gave her grandchildren books at every possible opportunity. Though she had an eighth grade education she was a scholar in her own right. She was a very positive role model for me with the articles she wrote for the library and church, the books she read, her daily diaries, and her constant pursuit of information.

One of my first acts was to put into reality my dream of being a doctor, but instead I chose the field of nursing. I went on to get my Master’s Degree in Human Development with a double major in psychology and social service. For thirty years I worked in traditional medicine, but also opened up my own holistic nursing service called Kare ‘N Touch. There I offered clients counseling, biofeedback, Swedish massage, acupressure and healing work all on a sliding fee basis.


The second act, my pursuit of writing, was when I co-authored a nursing article with another nurse, Charlotte Tourville, titled The Living Tree of Nursing Theories. This article was well received and today it is a model used by several schools of nursing. Our first publication was a thrilling moment for both of us. It was the result of using her strength in knowledge and research, and my gift of writing. A sense of accomplishment and the accompanying recognition fanned the second act which I now know I was destined to do and be.

A few years later (2008) brought the life altering diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The subsequent surgery, tests, chemotherapies, and many doctor’s visits changed my life forever in a positive way. Again I turned to journaling and writing as one of my coping and healing tools. A close friend asked to read my journal, which I said was just a diary and would not be of interest to her. She insisted and brought it back to me a few days later saying, “Karen, you must get this published. Women all over the world will benefit from what you are saying.”

Due to the recognition of the nursing article and my friend’s enthusiastic response to my journal, I now felt confident enough to ask a retired English professor to read my tattered and often rewritten novel’s manuscript. A week later she returned it to me and said, “Karen, you blew me away. This is excellent.”

Doors were opening for me to enter and walk through. Little did I know that my nursing career in traditional and holistic medicine and an ovarian cancer diagnosis would bring me to my present act as an accomplished and published author of a nursing article and two books.

My first published book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, has earned two awards and been well accepted by the medical community, patients, and their families. I donate all proceeds to gynecologic cancer research at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

My novel, Novy’s Son, The Selfish Genius, follows the life of a man searching for love and acceptance from his father. Many times when I counseled men, they were on a similar search and too many of them sought out approval through unhealthy behaviors.

My second act as an author is exciting and I believe it is my God given purpose. I write a weekly blog about health/wellness, relationships, spirituality, and cancer. I give presentations to churches, libraries, hospitals, service organizations, and book clubs. I have published articles in Oncology Times,, Southern Writers’ Magazine, and have been a guest blogger for a number of sites.

I am writing my second novel, because I believe it is a story that needs to be told. I love to use my imagination and this story certainly allows me to do just that. It is a story of love, tragedy, and family dynamics in the nineteenth century.

I look back on my life and know that there were many steps I needed to take and challenges to overcome. All of my life events have brought me to where I am today. I say to all who read this, “Listen to your heart and follow your dream.” I love to read a good story, and I hope that my gift of writing brings those same feelings to my readers.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you, what you do with that talent is your gift to God” (Leo Buscaglia). I am blessed to be living my second act with joy, love, and peace.

Karen’s Books

kareningallsoutshineWhen I was diagnosed with Stage II ovarian cancer, I realized how little I new about what was once called “the silent killer.” As I began to educate myself I felt overwhelmed by the prevalent negativity of cancer. Lost in the information about drugs, side effects, and statistics, I redirected my energy to focus on the equally overwhelming blessings of life, learning to rejoice in each day, and find peace in spirituality. In this memoir I offer a perspective of hope with the knowledge that “the beauty of the soul, the real me and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. This is a story of survival, and reminds readers that disease is not an absolute, but a challenge to recover.

kareningallsnovassonFrom his early childhood, Matthew Collins sought love and acceptance from his father, who was raised as the bastard child of a famous artist. Matthew struggled with jealousy toward his younger brothers, and he questioned the morals and values of people around him.

As an adult, Matthew lived life his way, with years of lying, womanizing, and heavy drinking. Though married four times, did he ever find unconditional love? Would Matthew’s high intelligence, his love for his two daughters, and his unique philosophy of life help him rise above his demons?

Where to find Karen…

Website | Blog | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon | Facebook

Joanne here!

Karen, thank you for an inspiring post and good luck with all your literary endeavors. I encourage all readers of this blog to follow Karen online and learn more about her extraordinary journey.

Happy Serendipity Day!


Today is Serendipity Day, an officially recognized annual event and special day to celebrate unexpected and much appreciated grace.

Some of my favorite quotations…

The universe is always speaking to us…sending us little messages, causing coincidences and serendipities, reminding us to stop, to look around, to believe in something else, something more. Nancy Thayer

There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery. Jeff Bezos

Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns on the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure—do it well, enjoy it—and then, not now, think about what comes next. Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked. Elizabeth Berg

Unless you leave room for Serendipity…How can the Divine enter? Joseph Campbell

History is an intricate web of timing, people, circumstances and serendipity. Don Rittner

In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts. Peter McWilliams

Serendipity: Look for something, find something else and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for. Lawrence Block

If you use it intelligently, Twitter can be a form of engineered serendipity. Jason Silva

70 and New Beginnings

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate author Susan B. James entertaining us with her amazing life journey and introducing her novel, Time and Forever.

Here’s Susan!

Thank you, Joanne, for this opportunity to guest on Second Acts. Writing is my second act. Specifically Romance writing.

I grew up all over the world. My Mother was a serial monogamist.

Mom at 46 in Hawaii 1967 With my brother Mike

Mom at 46 in Hawaii 1967 With my brother Mike

A gorgeous woman who looked like Katherine Hepburn, she went through lots of men and four husbands in search of perfect happiness. I guess you could say my life with mom was like a soap opera with a laugh track.

Mom_Paris_Rome0001 (2)During the course of the adventure I started school in Paris, (mom had divorced my father and decided to go to Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn how to cook. There she dated Art Buchwald, the later famous columnist, and a college professor.) finished elementary school in Cape Town (Husband #2 was a newspaper report, turned PR man and was transferred to South Africa to head up PR for Mobil Gas). Graduated high school in Rome, (Mom was recovering from her most perfect love – Husband #3 -One of Madison Avenue’s Mad Men – and she decided child support and alimony would go further in Italy. Mom got a job from an old boyfriend selling airplanes, so she could legitimately leave the country with my younger sibs, Kelly and Mike.)

Why am I not writing this story you ask? Auntie Mame has been written and there’s way too much soap opera in Mom’s story. I prefer funny.

Sue_1965_the_Knack (2)By the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be an actor. In 1966 after finishing graduate school in Hawaii, I went to England hoping to be hired at a theatre there. Why had I never heard of Work Laws? I did get a job, but I could only get a work permit if no one else in the British Commonwealth could do the job. So after a wonderful three months and an under the table job as a maid in a YWCA, I flew back to the US to take a job at Front Street Theatre in Memphis. When I wrote Time and Forever, my London background came in very handy.

My marriage of twenty two years ended just before my 50th birthday. I think we were a small blurb in People Magazine during the divorce. Barry was at that time one of the stars of Northern Exposure. He played Maurice Minnifield, the astronaut. We had a rough few years, but I am happy to report we are now good friends and get together whenever he is in town. Right now he is on the series, Anger Management, so we meet to play trivia once a week.

While trying to revive my acting career (no-one cared what I had done ten years ago. It wasn’t so much a revival as a start-over.) I decided I needed a new interest and began to write children’s books.

It never occurred to be to write an adult book. I was a romance junkie from the day I read my first Harlequin Novel while we were summering in Port Colburne, Canada. No Roses in June by Essie Summers. I still have it. I progressed from Essie Summers to Emilie Loring and Georgette Heyer and so on and so on . . . I am a Susan Elizabeth Phillips addict.

In October, 2009 I wrote a post for my Children’s Lit blog, Pen and Ink, about the joys of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I had to sign up to do NaNo to write the post, and in November, my guilt genes kicked in and I started writing.

With not an idea in my head, what appeared on my computer screen was an adult novel called Second Chances. I was thrilled when I finished and couldn’t wait to share it with someone. I had a new dream: Romance novelist.

Four years and MANY submissions and rewrites later, Cheryl Yeko offered me a contract with Soul Mate Publishing. That was five months before my 70th birthday.

I decided to write as Susan B. James so that my sons didn’t have to disown me when they found out I wrote sex scenes. No child wants to acknowledge their parent could possibly know about sex. I’m pretty sure neither of my sons nor their wives read the book.

susandoublepixI used a double author photo: Me now and me in 1969. I did it because I believe we only age on the outside. Our inner person stays the same.

Advice on starting over? Don’t EVER accept the label OLD. It’s demeaning. Think of yourself as chronologically gifted. You have lots more to give.

Time and Forever was published in January, 2014 and won an honorable mention in the 2014 Great Northwest Book Festival.

Time_and_Forever2__fiona_web_large (2)


Sherry wants a second chance at love. Lorena doesn’t believe that’s possible. But when a glitch in a virtual reality adventure sends them back to the real 1969, anything can happen.

Longer Blurb

What would you give up for a chance at true love?

When Sherry’s best friend Lorena promises her a virtual reality adventure for her sixty-third birthday, neither of them expect a trip back in time.

But when the handsome stranger she’d kissed on a London train in the summer of ’69 bumps into her in the “VR” adventure, she knows it couldn’t be anything else. And this time she doesn’t want to run.

Lorena’s heart’s still linked to her husband who died four years ago. She returns to the present to find a letter from David urging her to travel to a past she doesn’t remember.

Meeting Dave in 1969 Los Angeles is everything she never imagined. But how can she stay when the price might be the life of her daughter?

Time and Forever, the audio book should be available by mid August. One of the thrills of my life was listening with friends who hadn’t read the book to the first take of the audio book and hearing them laugh in the places I meant laughs.

I’ve started a blog with five tabs (aren’t I ambitious?) Which has more about me, some Paleo recipes and a sneak peek at my next adult book, Kate’s Hero. Someday I will find time to fill the children’s book tab. I know it.

I am also on Twitter and I have a Facebook author page for Romance. I also have them for my Earthquake Book and we have one for Pen and Ink. Leading a triple online life as an actor, children’s author and romance writer is proving a huge challenge. But what would life be without some obstacles?

Thanks for reading.

Joanne here!

What an extraordinary journey! If you ever run out of creative ideas (I know, highly unlikely), consider writing your memoirs. I loved reading Time and Forever and highly recommend it to everyone.

Withstanding the Fire

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Dr. Julie Connor sharing and reflecting upon her journey to a spectacular second act.

Here’s Julie!

julieconnorWhen I was five, I loved to warm my hands by a fire. Roast marshmallows. Twirl sparklers. As I got older, I looked to other people to tell me who I was and what I enjoyed. When we were children, our choices were driven by a personal sense of fun and adventure. As adults, we often can’t distinguish opportunities filled with excitement from those that bore us to sleep until we are forced to make a decision. Motivated by the proverbial “fire under our tails.”

Shortly after I completed my doctoral program, I received an envelope from the school district where I worked as an instructional coach. It felt like fire in my hands. I was intuitively aware of its contents. A letter explained my job was axed as a result of downsizing. I went back to school to earn degrees in school administration and educational leadership. I hoped the degrees would allow me to take a leap of faith out of traditional educational positions into a career I loved. However, I had no words to describe “a career I loved.” I was only sure of one thing: I was standing on holy ground.

A friend asked, “What do you want to do?” I didn’t know. He asked, “What do you like to do?” I had no idea. I spent years developing workshops, designing programs, analyzing data, and composing submissions for other people in higher positions who would take credit for my work. I did it to ensure job security. And I never had it. I thought maybe sometime somehow some way I might capture moments where I could do bits of what I liked to do. I worked so hard to please other people that I lost myself in the process. I finally realized that there wasn’t anything anybody else could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself.

I retreated to a red chair in a corner of my home for more than a year. I churned out masterfully-crafted application forms, composed essays, designed PowerPoint presentations, prepared for interviews, and scoured on-line listings for positions I did not want. I applied for jobs where skills in assessment and data analyses were needed. I learned a foreign language to become more marketable. I applied for jobs in my hometown, in different cities, in different states, and in different countries. And I withdrew from the world.

I was tired.

I searched through magazines hoping to find something that would make me feel anything but sad and hollow. One night, I dreamt about a tiger. The next morning, I found a picture of a beautiful tiger leaping through the air. In the kingdom of spirit animal guides, a tiger represents personal power, courage, and strength to face and overcome obstacles. I like tigers. When I was five, I wrote love letters to Tony the Tiger and mailed them to the North Pole (because everybody knows that Tony the Tiger lives with Santa Claus). The paper tiger in my hand was powerful and strong. I felt happy as I looked at the tiger and the memory it triggered. And I felt strong.

I found more pictures. I found words and meaningful quotations. I purchased poster paper and attached my collection of pictures and words to its surface. It became my vision board. I developed a daily practice of recording all of the blessings in my life in a gratitude journal.

I volunteered to facilitate workshops at local colleges, urban high schools, and support groups that desperately wanted someone to remind them that they still had dreams. Organizations requested copies of my goal-setting resources, inspirational stories, prayers, and reflections. I slowly rediscovered what made my heart sing one step, one activity, one prayer, one goal, one habit, one picture, one encouraging phrase, one journal entry, one conversation, one risk at a time.

Throughout the months that followed, my vision board evolved. My dreams hadn’t gone anywhere. Years ago, I was too frightened to nurture my own aspirations because I didn’t trust any of them could come true. So, my dreams took a nap until I woke up. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” insists Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I cut those words out and attached them to my vision board. Next to the tiger.

I love the collaborative hammering out of mission statements, constructing goals aligned with a vision, and building relationships. I love engaging in meaningful dialogue with others as they discern their dreams. I hate data analyses. I like to plan and show others how to use tools that empower them to pursue their passions. I love to write.

The same fire that melts butter hardens steel.

The process of rediscovering one’s personal passions can be excruciatingly difficult. I had to relearn how to listen to that intense brilliant voice within that knows – that’s always known – what I enjoy, where my talents lie, and what I believe.

Vocare, in Latin, means “to call.” The root of the word, vocation. When we find the courage and wisdom to respond to the Voice, we stand on holy ground.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and philosopher, said, “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Where are you now?

I am a keynote speaker, goals & planning catalyst, and author of the goal-setting workbook, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide. I founded a network to inspire and empower women over 50.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

My primary piece of advice: Do something. Start anywhere. Any step forward is a step in the right direction.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

From my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide:“Do the next right thing and the next right step will reveal itself to you.”



In Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, Dr. Julie Connor will help you discover your dream, define your purpose, and create tangible goals. Julie empowers you with the skills and tools needed to transform your dream into a spectacular plan of action.

Where to find Julie…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | YouTube | Pinterest | Amazon

Joanne here!

Julie, thank you for sharing your incredible journey. I enjoy following you online and look forward to reading your book.

Never Stop Learning

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Kath Unsworth chatting about her passions and her emerging second act as an Illustrator/Artist/Writer.

Here’s Kath!

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

butterfly (copy) (2)Growing up in a mixed bunch of creative people was a great way to thrive. Nine siblings to be precise. My passion to draw started early. As a child I loved looking at nature. Most happiest when observing the birds, watching a spider spinning it’s web or following a butterfly in flight. I dreamed of being an artist and painting beautiful pictures to hang in galleries. I was a mad book-worm too and often imagined my own endings to books if I did not like the way the story ended.

For some reason I let my passions slip through my fingers when I became an adult.

My career crossed paths with creativity many times. Visual merchandiser, costume jewellery maker, graphic designer, being some of the more memorable experiences. But I never seemed to feel my feet lift off the ground. Or believe I could fly, like when I was a child creating art. My childhood dreams, lost in my attempts to live a busy city existence.

Life gets in the way of the creative journey and I would be lying if I said it didn’t. I did not realise I needed to change my career. It was by sheer accident I discovered a new world of art.

I fell in love, stopped work to have children. With children, came a need to write stories. All my passion for art came floating back to me.

Reading picture books to the children inspired ideas. Moving to a dairy farm the power of nature found me once more and I began to create art. Children can do funny things to a person and they inspire me every day to think outside the box. As does my husband.

Recently I sent my picture book manuscript off to an editor and the healthy dose of feedback, made me realise I still have much to learn. I’m okay with that, I am learning by doing. My first book Sugar and Spice has had its ups and downs because I am writing and illustrating it. It is not finished yet. Some say this is a big no, illustrating your own picture book in the publishing world. I believe in the beauty of my own dreams and I know what I want for this book.

I began dreaming about picture books and drawing new characters. Ideas pop into my head at any given hour. I have no education in this field and understand the road is not an easy one. I have decided to take on a few more courses to aid me in this craft.

My interest in the minuscule moments and living where I live, inspire a creative lifestyle. I will open an Etsy shop this year and start selling my art. I am thinking of offering pet portraits too. It has taken years for me to realize I am an Illustrator/Artist/Writer. My journey continues and I know I will never lose this passion to create. I am a student, all over again.

My advice for anyone wanting to follow their passion is start today. Listen to the voice inside you, it knows best. Get educated. I am learning new skills daily. I have found the road of creating a picture book is a long and challenging path. It will take me many years to get it right. Attaining new skills is rewarding in itself. Don’t rush it, even though it feels like you should. Don’t be afraid of feedback it is where you learn the most.

My art is my life, I go where it leads. To who knows where? All I know is I am learning to fly again, like a baby bird fresh from the nest. All I have to do is keep going, keep learning and never give up. Through all these crazy projects something will happen.

I will leave you with some wise and wonderful words from Dr. Seuss:

“If Things start happening.
Don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”
Dr. Seuss

Thank you Joanne for inviting me to your awesome inspiring site. It has been a pleasure to write about my emerging second act.

kath 1 copy (2)Where to find Kath…

Kath lives down the far south coast of Australia on a dairy farm.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Joanne here!

Kath, thanks for sharing your journey and insights. I love your artwork and look forward to the release of Sugar and Spice.

From Wrong to Write

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have multi-genre author and editor Harmony Kent chatting about her extraordinary life journey from a Buddhist temple to literary success.

Here’s Harmony!

harmonykentBriefly describe your first act.

I wrote all the time as a kid, but it wasn’t always well received. I guess children tell it like they see it, and when I wrote about the world around me, the grownups didn’t always appreciate such a clear mirror!

Needless to say, I grew up and my mirror was more than a bit cloudy. All my energy went into dealing with life: relationships, job, just getting through each day. So, the writing fell by the wayside. I just didn’t have the confidence or the time.

Then I made a decision that changed my life: I took ordination as a Buddhist Monk and lived in a Temple for 13 years. I worked through a lot during those years, and I found a confidence and contentment I had never known. Life was good.

What triggered the need for change?

In 2007 I underwent routine surgery, and unfortunately it went very wrong. I was left disabled and in a lot of pain for the next three years. In 2010 I had one of my legs amputated in an attempt to improve the situation. Although I still experience lots of pain, I am not as debilitated as I was pre-amputation. So, while it didn’t give me the fresh start I had hoped for, it did offer me some relief and improvement.

I stayed in the Temple for six years after the injury, but couldn’t follow the schedule, or do the tasks I would normally have done. So, just shy of two years ago, I made the decision to leave and return to the world. I was forty years old, not very mobile, and starting my life from scratch. I didn’t have any belongings, or anywhere to live. I was literally beginning life anew.

Once all my basic needs were taken care of, I had to find something to fill my time and keep my brain occupied. Very quickly, I found a story begging to be written, and so I sat at the computer and began to type. The Battle for Brisingamen was born. As soon as I had finished that one, another story idea was pestering me, and so I continued to write.

Where are you now?

Two years on, and I have three books published, with more on the way. I also offer editing and proofreading services for other authors. As well as being a busy book reviewer. I have met many online friends, and my life is so full.

My second book, The Glade, received an IndieBRAG Medallion in July—which is a difficult award to achieve. Only ten percent of all books submitted are offered the medallion. My latest book, Elemental Earth, was released just six days ago, and is my first Young Adult novel. I am already working hard on the sequel: Air-born.

thebattleforbrisingamenThe Glade Front Cover with BRAG Medallion (2)

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

When life as you know it comes to an end, and you find yourself asking ‘what now?’ Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Yes, it’s hard. But, it is also a great opportunity to re-invent yourself. There is always a way. Had my injury not occurred, I would probably have still been living a cloistered life under monastic vows. However, the life I have now is so rewarding and fulfilling, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The change was scary, and I felt isolated for a long time. But, I kept going. Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? For me, life really did begin at forty.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

‘No matter how you feel: get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.’

I found this quote online, and it spoke to me in a personal way. I used it in a recent guest article I wrote for All Author’s Magazine. It is from Lea Michelle’s ‘Rise and Shine’ quotes, and echoes closely my own philosophy. That’s not to say that when we need to take time out we can’t do it. Quite the opposite: if we need to stay put and rest, then that is our work for the day. We have to choose our battles, as it were. The important thing is that we aren’t giving up.


Elemental Earth Cover for Kindle (2)Elemental Earth is a Young Adult Fantasy Fiction novel, and was released on July 31st 2014. It has already received its first 5 star reviews!

“You turned the god of gnomes into a garden ornament?”

Sarah looked closely, but couldn’t tell if her dad was annoyed or amused—perhaps he was both …

Whilst 15 year old Sarah may be struggling to regain her feet, after being ripped from her everyday mundane life and ending up in a whole new dimension, she still knows how to have a bit of fun along the way. The Earth Elemental isn’t the only one whose feathers she manages to ruffle, and it’s only been four days. Meanwhile, her best friend is missing, and big trouble is brewing. She soon has a lot more to worry about than what happened to her phone or iPod, or even how much of an idiot Caleb obviously thinks she is.

Elemental Earth is the first book in The Mysteries series, and is aimed at Young Adults. Even if you’ve already reached an age where the young ones might call you ‘old enough’, if you’re still young at heart then you’re bound to enjoy these books just as much as the next—err—younger adult.

Age aside, perhaps we should be more worried about what further havoc Sarah’s antics might be about to wreak on the universe as we know it? We’d probably all be sleeping a lot more soundly if she’d only stuck to applied maths and the odd pillow fight. But no, sadly the lure of the proverbial rabbit hole proved just a tad too much. And now she’s taken the plunge, there’s no turning back.

Where to find Harmony…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Goodreads

Joanne here!

Wow! I am inspired by your journey and look forward to reading your books. If you ever run out of creative ideas, consider writing a memoir.

Making a Difference Makes Me a Better Person

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author, blogger, and book reviewer Rosie Amber chatting about her multi-layered life.

Here’s Rosie!

rosie2My second act journey began as my youngest child’s Primary education journey came to an end. It felt like the ending of an era and I wanted to have something to remember it by for myself and my friends. So I wrote a book loosely based on all my experiences along the years of Primary school education. In just three months I had my book full of fun memories covering incidents from the eleven years that our family had been going to a small village school. It’s called Talk of The Playground.

I never thought much further than that, but my friend introduced me to self-publishing. I had no budget for anything to do with the book, I’m a full time house-wife with a part-time job as a farm secretary. Suddenly, like so many, I could fulfill the lifetime dream of writing and publishing a book. It became a drug, a published book, Wow! I kept looking at it on Amazon and asking is that really me?

I approached the book so innocently, no plans, no marketing, no author platform, I knew nothing about all this. I was not a social bunny, I had a desktop and laptop computer, no iPhone, not even a Kindle. Suddenly I had a thirst to learn how I could sell my book, how I could connect with the writing world.

Luckily I have a very good friend, she introduced me to blogging. First we tried Tumbler, but the audience was wrong. Then we started on WordPress, one lesson at a time. Next it was Twitter and finally an author page on Facebook. Two years ago I knew nothing about social networking, now I work really hard at it. I’ve always loved reading so I filled my blog with book reviews. Really poor book reviews to start with but I learned from my mistakes along the way.

In 2013 I joined the A-Z blogging tour and my reading audience boomed. I participated in the tour again in 2014. Each time I promote author’s books.

I also read a book which sent me in a new direction. A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly was an experiment by Judith to do one Good Deed a day for a year. As I began the book I challenged myself to try the same experiment. I became so aware of opportunities to help others, clean up the planet and be a better person, that I completed my own year and am now carrying on and am into my second year. I post weekly updates on my blog every Sunday. Sometimes it’s as easy as picking up litter, phoning a friend or baking a cake, but I have inspired others too. Recently I had a lovely comment from a author in America, he said I have made him very aware of Good deed opportunities in his life and he doesn’t pass them by because he feels I would be disappointed if he did.

rosie3I now have lots of people who come to my blog for book reviews, and guest author pieces. I give my service for free, I enjoy helping others. In June I ran a Book Review Challenge series, giving advice on book reviews. I had guest posts from other book reviewers, authors on the need for book reviews and a publisher. Authors gave free books to readers who wanted to take up the challenge of writing book reviews. It was such a success that I then launched a Book Reviewing Team. This offers authors access to several reviewers all from one place. Again the service is free and voluntary on the behalf of the reviewers. Anyone who loves reading can join, and I am happy to discuss books with authors who would like their book reviewed, either by myself or by the team members.

Not one to sit still, I like to keep my blog fresh, with plenty for everyone. I have now blogged for almost two years and have posted nearly every day on those two years in an effort to build up an interacting audience of readers. Last week I was introduced to author and Twitter Queen Rayne Hall (@RayneHall) She has written a great book for authors called Twitter for Writers. This week I reviewed her book and she was a recent guest offering 12 Twitter tips for writers, which was fantastic.

rosie1My next project is Romancing September Across The World. A tour of Romance books co-hosted with Stephanie Hurt from Georgia, USA. We offer a double exposure of each book on a given day in September.

My own writing journey has gone full circle, I am now doing a big edit on Talk of the Playground and am closely working with Alison Williams. A result of reading and reviewing, my awareness of what works and what needs improvement has shown me that now I need to edit my book to make it more than just a lovely memory for myself and my friends. If I want to reach an audience I need to make the book connect to the readers who don’t know the English school system or who have never been in a village school playground, where you may well see and hear things that will make your eyes pop out of your head. I’ve taken my book down from Amazon, I’ve grown as a writer and a person from my two years in the blogging world. I really am a different better person.

Where to find Rosie…

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Joanne here!

I am impressed and inspired by your generosity of spirit. You are making a difference in the global writing community. Molte grazie!

Is There Life After Three Career Attempts and an Unfinished PhD?

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Francis Guenette reflecting on her multi-act life.

Here’s Francis!

Thank you, Joanne, for inviting me to be part of the second act series. Writing this guest post has been a valuable exercise in self-reflection.

Francis Guenette - author photo (2)My first act was defined by the dream of higher education and my second act as answering the question – is there life after three career attempts and an unfinished PhD? I won’t keep anyone in suspense. The answer is a resounding yes! The life events that taught me the most – I never saw them coming. After all, no journey is planned completely in advance. The key to moving from one act to the next is the realization that the familiar path has been outgrown.

Flash back many years. I was married with a baby in my arms before the age of twenty. Act one was underway. I began my pursuit of letters after my name modestly enough, sitting at the kitchen table stealing moments from child-minding and house-tending to complete distance education courses. Another child graced our life. Eventually, I finished my undergrad degree and put it to use working with a non-profit group in an educational role. The kids grew. I became disillusioned with my first career choice. I added a year of additional study and embarked on career number two, working with special needs students in the school system.

Soon enough, it was time to move on, again. I was accepted into graduate school and completed a master’s degree in counselling psychology – my third career choice. Both my kids got married, I became a grandma. While I worked as a trauma counsellor, I tackled teaching at the university level and completing a PhD. Initially, I thrived on the excitement of life in the city, work, study, research and travel. A few years down the road, the pace began to wear me out. By the time I was informed that I had to complete my dissertation, I was all but tapped out.


I came home to our isolated cabin by the lake with strict instructions to get finished. I rebelled. As those lazy, hazy days of summer unwound, I wrote a draft of a novel that became, Disappearing in Plain Sight. It was the first time I had ever written fiction. The characters and their stories took hold of me and they wouldn’t let go. It was the most exciting writing I had done in years. I felt alive, exhilarated. The burnt out feelings associated with the past couple of years vanished. I turned deaf ears to all who insisted I was flushing my PhD down the toilet, to say nothing of turning my back on yet another career choice. My second act had begun.

I never looked back. I embraced being at home again and spending time with my children and grandchildren. I began to work with an extremely talented editor. She provided encouragement through rewrite after rewrite. My son introduced me to the world of self-publishing. Everything fell into place. Disappearing in Plain Sight was published in March of 2013 and the sequel, The Light Never Lies, came out in February of 2014. I’m currently working on the first draft of the third book in the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night.

My advice to others embarking on the first tottering steps of the second act – don’t give up, don’t circle the wagons or retreat to the safety of what feels tried and true. Trust your instincts. There may not be support from those close to you. It’s hard enough for you to follow the map you’re making up as you go. Trying to explain your route to others might be a waste of time. What has come before will not be lost. Every hard fought lesson of the first act will serve you in good stead come the second.

In closing, I’ll quote a wonderful passage that has inspired me by the author of Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott.

But you can’t get any of these truths by sitting in a field and smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and stay in the moment. And that moment is home.


Disappearing in Plain Sight - cover (2)Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iTunes

The Light Never Lies - ebook cover - Francis L. Guenette (2)As circumstances spiral out of control, Lisa-Marie is desperate to return to Crater Lake. The young girl’s resolve is strengthened when she learns that Justin Roberts is headed there for a summer job at the local sawmill. Her sudden appearance causes turmoil. The mere sight of Lisa-Marie upsets the relationship Liam Collins has with trauma counsellor, Izzy Montgomery. All he wants to do is love Izzy, putter in the garden and mind the chickens. Bethany struggles with her own issues as Beulah hits a brick wall in her efforts to keep the organic bakery and her own life running smoothly. A native elder and a young boy who possesses a rare gift show up seeking family. A mystery writer arrives to rent the guest cabin and a former client returns looking for Izzy’s help. Life is never dull for those who live on the secluded shores of Crater Lake. Set against the backdrop of Northern Vancouver Island, The Light Never Lies is a story of heartbreaking need and desperate measures. People grapple with the loss of cherished ideals to discover that love comes through the unique family ties they create as they go.

Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iTunes | Smashwords

Website and Blog

Joanne here!

Francis, thank you for sharing your extraordinary journey and excellent advice. Best of luck with your literary endeavors.

When I Grow Up

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Robyn Roze asking and answering the important questions.

Here’s Robyn!

First, I want to thank Joanne for inviting me to include my second act story with hers and so many other interesting women. All of your stories are inspiring.

robynrozeI’m a wanderer by nature. Always have been. I’m not much for planning too far into the future, because I could change my mind, my direction. Having said that, it won’t come as a surprise that as a young girl, a young woman, and now a mature woman, closing ever so quickly in on the half-century mark, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Well, except that I’ve always known I wanted to be happy, healthy, considerate, open-minded, and compassionate. The very same things I hope my own children will be when they grow up. But that’s not what people mean when they ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Frankly, I never had an answer for that question. At least not one I felt completely comfortable with, or confident about. My interests varied, my focus shifted over time and there was never an overarching gut sense of what I should be. I must admit, I’m still a bit jealous of people who know at a young age exactly what they want to be when they grow up. And then go on to pursue and achieve the very thing they always knew they wanted to be. How wonderful it must be to have that kind of certainty in life. But not me. So, I plodded through college and earned a bachelor’s degree. Only to return some years later for another degree, hoping to garner marketable skills and a bigger paycheck; not because I’d had an epiphany about what I wanted to be.

Then when my son and daughter were old enough to begin thinking about their own futures, they asked me the burning question from my youth, the one I’d never felt comfortable answering. I understood in that moment what they were really asking: “How do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” And, “Are you doing it?” I was honest with them, as I have always been. So, my kids, not satisfied with my answer, changed the question and drilled down to the heart of the matter: “What would you be if you could be anything?” I think that was the first time I’d ever been asked that question, and my answer was instant: “I would be a writer.” I remember that day clearly with my kids, because for the first time I understood I had always known what I wanted to be. I had never given that answer before, because I knew it would be dismissed and the question rephrased to: “What do you want to be that will earn you money and pay the bills?”

And that is a valid question, too.


I’m all for pursuing dreams, but bills do have to be paid and children do have to be fed. However, what I discovered that day with my kids is that I had only been paying the bills and had dismissed my dream. So, in my late forties and with the unwavering support of my husband, I dared to pursue my dream of writing. I have self-published four books to date and am currently working on my fifth. I write the kind of stories I want to read; a nod to one of my favorite quotes, by the way. The process has been difficult and rewarding, all at once. I have connected with some amazing people during my journey, my second act. Writers and fans, some, who have even turned into friends. Lucky me.

No matter how my second act turns out, I am grateful for the insightful question my kids asked me that day. The question that shifted my focus, reopened my eyes, and pushed me to wander down a new path. Pushed me to do more than just pay the bills.

We all have obligations that must be met. But once you’ve met them, live your dream. Don’t get stuck in the rut of just paying the bills when you grow up. My kids taught me that. And in return, I hope I’ve shown them how to do both.



Shayna Chastain’s marriage crashed and burned. She walked away, bruised, but not broken, without so much as a glance over her shoulder at her philandering husband. Oh, his betrayal stung, but Shayna has experienced loss before. She knows it comes for you when you least expect it.

Now feeling a bit past her prime and wanting a new direction in life, Shayna reawakens the woman she remembers being before marrying Frank Chastain. She wants a different life from the one she’s been living. However, she doesn’t have much support from her family and friends who think she’s made a regrettable decision.

Frank Chastain, Mt. Pleasant’s steely real estate mogul, begrudgingly signed the dissolution papers Shayna forced on him. He never wanted to divorce the love of his life. Always believed they could work it out.

She’ll be back.

He’s sure of it.

Now more than ever, he needs that to be true. Events have conspired in his life that could blow open the secret he’s been hiding. He needs Shayna to help him seal it shut, but it may already be too late.

Sean Parker owns an Italian restaurant that has become Shayna’s oasis, giving her respite from the swirling storm around her. Their attraction is instant, but the fallout will last a lifetime. Sean’s smooth, handsome exterior hides an unsavory past that he walked away from years ago and has no intention of revisiting, or discussing.

If it’s really in the past, is it even anyone’s business? Sean sees no point in being an open book. What matters is right now. And right now, there’s no way in hell he’s going to lose the only woman he’s ever loved. The only woman he can’t live without.

But life doesn’t always let us keep our secrets. And these secrets are about to explode to the surface with far-reaching, deadly consequences.

How well do you know the people you love?

Even the one’s you’ve known most of your life…

**Mature themes and sexual content for 18+**

Where to find Robyn…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon

Joanne here!

Robyn, thank you for reminding us to ask the “right” questions. And congratulations on your literary achievements!

My Life Across the Tasman Sea

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate author Elizabeth Preston talking about her life-changing journey across the Tasman Sea.

Here’s Elizabeth!

I grew up in New Zealand, the child of British immigrant parents. From the age of fifteen, I began dreaming about writing a book. The few manuscripts I attempted died in my bottom drawer – thank goodness.

Growing Up - North Island of New Zealand

Growing Up – North Island of New Zealand

I began my working life in an advertising agency, buying time slots for ads on television. But the commercial business world really wasn’t for me, so after a few years I threw that in. From there I went to Teachers College and trained to become a kindergarten teacher.

I raised my young sons, taught on and off and attempted to write children’s books at night.

Elizabeth & Her Sons - South Island of New Zealand

Elizabeth & Her Sons – South Island of New Zealand

Then, out of the blue, my husband got offered a job in Sydney. They gave us three weeks to up-sticks and relocate the whole family to Australia. The move changed the direction of my life.

I was in a new country, a country I instantly loved, and best of all, I now had the time I needed to pursue my passion. I enrolled in a university course in creative writing and wrote when I could.

A few years ago, we visited far north tropical Queensland, and there, in a museum, we watched a film clip about triumphant British settlers in the 1880s. It was very much a telly-ho style thing that showed the brave settlers hacking their way through the rainforest, battling snakes and malaria, and hostile Aborigines. All I could think about were the poor Aboriginal folk. Bingo – my main character (half native, half white Hunter) came to life.

I wrote his story into a novella, published on July 9. My advice for anyone wanting a second act is simple – do it now.

This is my favourite quote: Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.

TheOutcasts_400 (2)


In 1889, the Northern Australian Rainforests are cruel and prejudiced places to live.

Hunter, born from an English mother and a native Australian father, does not fit well with either group. He is an outcast. The new English settlers fear and demonise him because he is dark skinned, unpredictable and frighteningly strong.

Long ago, Hunter survived his mother’s murder. An Aboriginal witch doctor found the dying boy and used tribal magic to save his life. Hunter grew fearfully strong, but this gift of ferocity and strength came at a cost.

Now, as an adult, he wanders the rainforest at night venting his anger and frustrations. He is not safe to be around.

But wayward Alice thinks otherwise.

Where to find Elizabeth…



Soul Mate Publishing

Joanne here!

Thank you for sharing your journey and lovely pictures. BTW…The storyline for The Outcasts sounds intriguing. Best of luck with sales.